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The Ruta del Císter (the Cistercian route) is a spectacular religious route located inland from the Costa Daurada, in the region of Tarragona in Catalonia. It spans over 105 kilometres and links three breathtaking monasteries which date back to the Cistercian order in the 12th century. The Cistercian order was established in the French region of Burgundy in 1098 by a group of monks loyal to the “Rules of St. Benedict”. The order eventually established an important foothold in Europe and Spain, giving it a great influence over Christianity, economy and culture in Spain during the Middle ages. This influence and power eventually joined the regions of Alt Camp, Conca de Barberà and Urgell, which now have a Cistercian monastery each. The Cistercian Route has been one of the most spiritual routes since 1989 which can be followed in Catalonia, but it also provides the perfect opportunity to experience the culture, history, gastronomy and nature of the region.

 

The Monasteries

Santès Creus Monastery

This fascinating route begins in the region of Alt Camp, where you will find the Santès Creus Monastery. Situated on the banks of the river Gaià, the Monastery of Santa María de Santes Creus is a Cistercian abbey that was built in 1168 and today is one of the largest and best preserved in Spain. It is also the only one of the monasteries of the Cistercian Route in which there is no monastic life. During construction of the monastery, the monks followed the Rules of St. Benedict which meant that the church has to be oriented to the north and the cloister to the south. The church also had to have very austere decoration. The central part of the monastery includes the four basic pieces of the monastic life: the church, the cloister, the chapter hall and the residential areas.

Don’t miss the opportunity to take the tour of the monastery and explore the spaces from architectural and artistic points of view. Immerse yourself in the surroundings and let the medieval legends of this wonderful monastery be your guide. Guided and group tours are also available.

Highlights include the church, which contains a Romanesque portal from the 12th century and an imposing Gothic window with stained glass windows. The Gothic cloister, notable for the artistic quality of the ornamentation of the capitals. The monumental tombs, belonging to the royal family or to members of the Catalan nobility and the Royal Palace, built in several phases (XIII-XVI centuries) and has Gothic, Plateresque and Renaissance elements.

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Santès Creus Monastery inside

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Santès Creus Monastery outside

 

Santa María de Poblet

The Royal Abbey of Santa María de Poblet was founded in 1551 in the region of Conca de Barbèra in Catalonia. Founded by Cistercian monks from France on land conquered from the Moors, it is one of the largest and most complete Cisterian monasteries in the world and in 1991 was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its majestic architecture is what makes this monastery so impressive, which includes a fortified royal residence as well as the tombs for the kings and queens of Catalonia and Aragon. Santa María de Poblet consists of three enclosures and is surrounded by a defensive wall. The first outer enclosure contains 16th century buildings, which would have been storehouses, workshops, housing for lay workers and other premises which were connected with the financial life of the community.

Poblet Monastery also holds extraordinary importance in terms of art, history, spirituality and culture. It played a key party in the repopulation and agricultural exploitation of New Catalonia under the crown of Aragon. The monastery’s library and scriptorium were also recognised from the 13th century onwards for their contribution to law and history.

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Poblet Monastery outside

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Poblet Monastery inside

 

Santa María de Vallbona

The Monastery of Santa Maria de Vallbona is a Cistercian monastery located in the town of Vallbona in the region of Urgell, Catalonia, Spain. Founded in the early 12th century, it is one of the most important monasteries in Catalonia and is the only female monastery that has been preserved for over 800 years of uninterrupted monastic life. First news date from 1153, but it was not until 1176 when it got completely integrated in the Cistercian order. It began with several groups of hermits that later became nuns and monks, a sort of double community that lived under the crozier of their founder, Ramon de Vallbona. It was declared a historic-artistic monument in 1931. The monastery offers guided and group tours to find out about all the details of the monuments and of the monastic life that has taken place there.

Although small in size, Vallbona de les Monges is a beautiful monastery which contains exponents of the importance of women in medieval times. The monastery’s church is a fine example of a Romanesque-Gothic blend, and each of the cloister’s splendid galleries are is a different style: Gothic, Arabic and Romanesque. Highlights of the monastery’s incredible architecture also include two gothic domes, and its well looked after inn where guests have the opportunity to stay overnight.

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Santa María Vallbona de les Monges Monastery outside

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Santa María Vallbona de les Monges Monastery inside

 

Tips for the route

On foot, it will take approximately 5 days to complete the route, or you could complete the route by bike in approximately 2 and a half days. However, if you have children or more elderly travellers, it is advised that you follow the route by car along the GR175 Trail.

The Cistercian Route can be done by anyone who is used to hiking, as it does not entail anything harder than some moderate slopes and the distance itself. You can also do it in as many stages as you like, depending on how much time you have and how fit you are.

 

Other Places to Visit

The Cistercian Route can involve so much more than just simply visiting the monasteries. Although they do not form part of the Cistercian Route, the towns of Montblanc and Valls are the perfect places to visit during your trip to discover the Catalonian culture.

Montblanc: a picturesque Catalonian village. Behind its walls you can enjoy a walk through its Midde Age streets. It is also worth visiting the Rock Art Interpretation Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 situated in the Prades Mountains just 45 minutes away from Montblanc.

Valls: known for both its gastronomic and folkloric traditions. Known for its tradition of “human castles”, a 200 year old event which was even declared Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010.

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Rock Art Interpretation Centre in Prades Mountains

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Human Castle in Valls

 

Other Activities to Include

There are also plenty of gastronomic, cultural, historical and artistic activities which can be incorporated into the trip:

  • Winery visits
    • Agrícola de Barberà de la Conca (approx. 17 min. from Poblet Monastery)
    • Celler Mas Bella (approx. 20 mins. from Santès Creus Monastery)
  • Museums
    • Alabaster Museum and “Touch Alabaster” Workshop (approx. 22 min. from Poblet Monastery)
    • Frederic Marès Art Museum (approx. 14 min. from Poblet Monastery)
  • Tasting local gastronomy

Prized local delicacies include: DOP les Garrigues extra virgin olive oil, calçots (tender onions) from Valls; torró (almond and honey nougat) and xocolata a la pedra (“stone chocolate”) from Agramunt, coques de recapte, (sausages, fish, and braised vegetables presented on a think pizza-like base); homemade cured sausages; and traditionally produced local cheeses, meat, dairy and vegetable preserves, and both sweet and dried fruits.

  • Catalonian UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Roman Archaeological Ensemble of Tarragona – Tarragona
  • Catalan Romanesque Churches of the Vall de Boí – Vall de Boí
  • Works of Antoni Gaudí (e.g. Park Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Battlò) – Barcelona, 1984

*distances measured by car

 

Airports

If you are coming from abroad to take part in the Cistercian Route, Barcelona El Prat Airport is the largest international airport in Catalonia, operating hundreds of international flights. It is located approximately 1 hour away by car from Tarragona and the Santès Creus Monastery. Another option is Reus Airport, which is just 34 minutes by car to the Santès Creus Monastery, however it is a smaller airport with fewer connections.

 

Map

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Map of la Ruta del Císter

 

If you enjoyed this article, please don’t forget to follow Across Spain Travel Chronicles for more information about Spain’s rich culture and history.

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Did you know that Spain is home to some of the most beautiful parks and gardens in the world? In fact, it holds more than 8,000 of the 9,000 European species of plants, making it a popular place for botanists and tourists. Below are five of the most famous:

  1. The Royal Palace Gardens, Aranjuez
  2. Park Guell, Barcelona
  3. Parque del Clot, Barcelona
  4. Gardens at the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, Burgos
  5. Maria Luisa Park, Seville

The Royal Palace Gardens

The Royal Palace Gardens of Aranjuez surround the old Spanish Royal Residence which was built in the 1380s. The gardens are famous for their uniqueness, with more than 400 species of trees and bushes which are over 260 years old.

There are 3 main gardens surrounding the palace, each of them unique:

  1. The Parterre Garden

The flower beds, hedges and paths in this garden are beautifully constructed and well-trimmed forming an exquisite pattern in the garden. This intimate garden is perfect for a short stroll in the evening if you don’t enjoy long hikes!

  1. The Island Garden

What makes this garden unique is that it is located on an island in the Tagus River connected by a small bridge.

  1. The Prince’s Garden

Situated on 150 hectares of land, the Prince’s Garden is the largest of the three and nearly impossible to see in one day. One of the main attractions in the garden is the exquisite Chinese Pond.

 

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The Royal Palace Gardens of Aranjuez, Madrid. Source: revistadearte.com

Park Guell Barcelona

Built in the 20th century by one of Spain’s most famous architects Antoni Gaudi, the modern architecture of Park Guell is masked in mosaic patterns and bright colours, which makes it an attractive spot for tourists who enjoy taking picturesque photographs. When you enter the park, you are greeted by the famous Park Guell dragon which leads you to the rest of the park.

In the beginning, the plan was to create a housing estate with the land on which Park Guell is built, however this plan was not successful as no one wanted to invest, therefore Gaudi bought the model house and lived there until he died in 1926.

It is hard to believe that before Gaudi designed this magnificent park, it was only composed of dry land with hardly any greenery. Now, not only can you enjoy the beautiful buildings but at the back of the monumental area, you can take a walk amongst native trees and plants whilst enjoying a spectacular view of the city.

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View from the highest point of Park Guell. Source: rondalia.com

Parque del Clot, Barcelona

The Parque Del Clot is situated on 3.5 hectares of land with high bridges connecting either side of the park for pedestrians to cross. The chimney, arches and walls located in the Clot’s new green area, which was built in 1986, give evidence to the old mechanic workshops that were once there.

The park implements pre-existing architectural elements in a green space which makes it stand out. There are 4 different parts of the park: a long walk and three areas with a different purpose, making it perfect for all ages!

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Parque del Clot in Barcelona. Photo by josemanuel

Gardens at the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos

The monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos is one of the most characteristic monasteries in Spain, located next to the River Mataviejas on the land of Visigothic monastic establishments from the 7th century.

The Benedictine monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos demonstrates some of the most impressive work of European Medieval Art; whilst the cloisters of Santo Domingo represent one of the best examples of Roman Spain. Furthermore, they have become famous for their cypress which is thought to have been planted by one of the French Benedictine monks in 1882.

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Gardens at the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silo. Source: lasimagenesqueyoveo.com

Maria Luisa Park, Sevilla

Located in Seville’s historic center along the Guadalquivir River, is one of Europe’s finest greeneries known as Maria Luisa Park. A walk through here is an ideal way to cool down in the summer whilst allowing you to take advantage of the beautiful sights and cultural activities in the fresh air.

The highlight of the park is the Plaza de España, the monumental legacy of the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929, which symbolized a crucial memory for Seville and the rest of the world.

If you visit the park today you will see numerous monuments, fountains, ponds, flowers and impressive buildings that were re-designed by the French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier in 1911 which adds character to the park.

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The Maria Luisa Park in Sevilla. Source: pegnrope.com

If you enjoyed reading this post, please follow across spain Travel Chronicles for even more articles about Spain and its rich culture.

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Camino de Santiago, internationally known as The Way of St. James, is one of the most important pilgrimage places worldwide. The big interest in the route of St. James Way, to Santiago de Compostela, started with the discovery of the remains of the apostle Saint James the Greater. The final destination is located in the northwest of Spain, in the region of Galicia.

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Source: TripSavvy

Santiago de Compostela

The capital of Galicia lies in the northwest of the region. Santiago de Compostela is one of the most important and most famous pilgrimage places in Europe, receiving nowadays more than 300.000 international pilgrims every year.

One of the most popular rituals of the pilgrims is getting inside the crypt to see the coffin or to pray to St. James. Due to the high number of people visiting the sight, there is a problem of capacity and sometimes you have to wait for hours to access the interior.

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Source: pbase

History

The reason why Santiago de Compostela is such an important pilgrimage site dates back to the 9th century. In 814, when the tomb with the remains of the apostle James the Great was discovered for the first time. A chapel was constructed and years later the huge Catedral Santiago de Compostela should mark the place of discovery. This was the beginning of a big boom of pilgrimage to this place.

Nowadays many non-Christian tourists discovered the routes of Camino de Santiago. There is currently a trend of people following these routes just for enjoyment, sightseeing in combination with nature, sports, or seeking for a new challenge or as a way of self-discovery.

The routes of Camino de Santiago

Various places in Spain, as well as in Europe are known as starting points for the St. James Way. Even though no official way exist, there are some main routes, followed by pilgrims. All ways heading the same final destination – Santiago de Compostela. Below find the most popular ways starting in Spain and Portugal:

The French Way (Camino Francés)

The most popular way, one with some of the deepest historical roots starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and stretches over 780km until Santiago de Compostela. Over 60% of all pilgrims choose this route, which includes the major cities Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and León.

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Source: Schatz & Schatz

The Northern Route (Camino del Norte)

Stretching alone the northern coast of Spain, this route begins in the Basque country in Irún. It is a rather less popular route compared to others. Several parts of the way require hiking, which makes it more difficult for some people. It follows the old Roman way and passes by some important cities like San Sebastian, Gernika, Bilbao, and Oviedo.

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Source: Camino Ways

The Portuguese Way (Camino Portugués)

It is the second most popular path after the French Way. This route has 3 possible starting points. The farthest one is Lisbon, followed by Porto and then by Tui, a city next to the Spanish – Portuguese border at the north.

Proof of walking

The very first pilgrims who walked the whole route proofed their accomplishment by taking scallop shell as sign with them. Nowadays, pilgrims can buy a special passport and afterwards a certificate, proofing you went by foot or by bike. The passport is used to show evidence of either walking at least 100 km or of the way or going by bike for at least 200 km. To proof the walk/ride with your passport, you have to get a stamp from churches, town halls or other official establishments on your way to Santiago. Arrived at the final destination, people can get their certificate at the Pilgrims Office. The Compostela certificate is an original religious certificate written in Latin.

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Source: Keen on Asuncion

For whatever reason you want to accomplish the walking of the route, we put together the best packages for the New Year for you. Just contact us and ask for more information. We are happy to serve you with all kind of questions you might have about our Camino de Santiago packages.

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What would you say if we tell you we have the perfect programs to train like a professional, grow as a team and get out of your comfort zone? What would be your answer if we tell you that limits are for the others and that you are meant for something bigger? If you are ready for the best training camps in Spain, you better keep reading.

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source: Laois County Council

While Spain is one of the most pleasant tourist destinations in Europe, the reasons for its many professional athletes such as Rafael Nadal and the National Football team are neither the beaches nor the picturesque villages. Instead, the diverse scenery of Spain and top facilities all over Spain offer the perfect mixture to train like a beast.

Our training camps focusing on football, hockey, swimming and tennis are located on strategic places to not only offer the best facilities to athletes and an incredible experience, but also a landscape to relax after the hard work-out.

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source: Hockey Travel

Whether you are professional or amateur– we have training camps options depending on your discipline in Alicante, Valencia, Lloret de Mar, Salou, Terrassa, Vic and Sabadell for you! While our football training camps can be found in Alicante, Valencia, Lloret de Mar, Salou, Terrassa and Vic, the swimming training camps are centered in Sabadell. Tennis and hockey training camps are offered in Terrassa. All our training camps are perfect to build teamwork, set your mind and boost your performance. No matter if you prefer staying not far from a large city but with the advantages of staying in a quiet area or in the city itself– we make sure the facilities are not too crowded for your intensive morning and afternoon training. Finish off your training camp with a friendly match against locals to learn more about their strategies, compare yourself and have fun!

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source: Injury Rehab Centre

Our programs include modern and functional hotels which are not only experienced in handling sport groups in order to provide you with the best comfort, but also close to top facilities to not lose time training!

Train with us and we promise you, we have everything what your athlete’s heart could have ever asked for: from great equipped fitness centres to FIFA sized natural grass pitches, from outstanding grass hockey courts to the best indoor and outdoor Olympic swimming pools, from carpet paddle tennis courts to relaxing thermal facilities, … everything is set up for your work-out!

No matter if you are a football fan or a tennis fanatic, a professional swimmer or an amateur hockey player– we have the perfect training camp for you! Contact us now to get more information about our training camp programs and get ready for the next season with us!

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You are craving for a Hollywood-like food fight and your heart beats faster when thinking about the fruity smell of tomatoes being all over you? Well than you better keep reading, because we have the non-plus-ultra festival for you!

La Tomatina, one of the most famous festivals of Spain, is hosted every year on the last Wednesday of August in Buñol. Thousands of people from all over the world come together to throw millions of over-ripe tomatoes at each other, enjoy a great party and, most importantly, have the time of their lives!

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source: Love Valencia

While nobody knows exactly when and where the idea of having a food fight in the centre of a town developed, the most common rumor is about a food fight between friends which escalated in 1945. As some youngsters remembered the event and repeated the messy festival the year after, La Tomatina was forbidden by the city council and local police in the early 50s. After countless protests and imprisonments, the festival became an official festivity of Buñol in 1957 and is loved by everybody ever since then: while in the first years visitors were mainly from Spain, people from all over the world join the festival nowadays.

Prepare yourself for the 30th of August because nobody is going to stay clean! La Tomatina starts at 11 AM and for an hour, you are fighting for yourself against everybody else. Officially, the battle doesn’t start before somebody has climbed a high pole to get the coveted ham at the top. However, the fired water cannons are signal enough to start the fight! While the cleaning progress of the streets is great organized by the city council, only a few public showers are offered and most people find themselves cleaning their clothes in the river.

We won’t lie to you – La Tomatina is a mess, a funny mess, tho. To enjoy the festival to the fullest wear old clothes and closed shoes you are not sad throwing away afterwards. Moreover, leave valuable stuff at home and be respectful with others! One last tip from the professionals: Tuck your shirt into your shorts to always have a clean part to wipe your eyes with!

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source: Flores y plantas

You can read as much as you want about La Tomatina – you will never know how it actually feels like being involved in the biggest food fight of the world when you don’t participate. Book now to join us for THE event of the year because tickets are limited and hotels and hostels in Buñol and surrounding often fully booked out weeks before the event happens! Believe us: you will have the time of your life!

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